MAPLE LEAFS (28-41-11) at FLYERS (39-27-13)
As the NHL season continues to wind down, one team is fighting for a post-season spot. The other is continuing to build for the future and get back to the playoffs.
The Philadelphia Flyers playoff hopes took a huge hit after a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, who are trying to make the playoffs for a 25th straight season.
The Flyers are holding onto the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Boston Bruins aren’t giving up that easily as they’re currently tied with the Flyers in points (91). However, the Flyers have the upper hand by having a game in hand over the Bruins.
The Flyers are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and are in a position where everyone needs to bring 110 per cent, especially goaltender Steve Mason. Mason has elevated his game since the start of the season and will be heavily relied on in this playoff push. Since goalie Michal Neuvirth went down, Mason is 5-4-1 with a 2.16 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, the off-season can’t come soon enough.
The Leafs currently have the best odds of winning the Draft Lottery and drafting top prospect Auston Matthews after their loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and an Edmonton Oilers win over the Vancouver Canucks.
The Leafs haven’t drafted first overall since 1985, picking Leaf great Wendel Clark.
To anyone who thinks the Leafs are tanking on purpose, you need to clue in that the Leafs were going to be at the bottom of the league at the beginning of the year. Their roster was nowhere near as good as other teams in the league.
Yet, despite a roster without any stars, they have competed hard every game. And that was one of Mike Babcock’s main philosophies, to compete hard and play to the very end. Despite a losing season, the Leafs are headed in the right direction and more changes are going to happen in the off-season.
One of the bright spots this year is defenseman Morgan Rielly. Rielly has set career highs in goals, assists and points and is starting to emerge as the teams clear number one defender for the future. Add in the growth of forwards William Nylander, Zach Hyman and Connor Brown, the Leafs are in a great position to be fighting for a playoff spot in two or three years.
Not to mention, everyone will also have their eyes set on the NHL Free-Agent Frenzy where the Leafs are rumoured to be in the hunt for sniper Steven Stamkos. Despite suffering a blood clot in his arm, Stamkos underwent a successful surgery. Despite this setback, this shouldn’t deter the Leafs from making a push for Stamkos.
Jonathan Bernier is scheduled to start in net for the Leafs while Mason will get the nod for the Flyers.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Tobias Lindberg – Tyler Bozak – Kasperi Kapanen
Colin Greening – William Nylander – PA Parenteau
Sam Carrick – Byron Froese – Brad Boyes
Brooks Laich – Frederik Gauthier – Michael Grabner
Morgan Rielly – Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner – Frank Corrado
Andrew Campbell – TJ Brennan
Brayden Schenn – Claude Giroux – Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek
Matt Read – Nick Cousins – Sam Gagner
Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Ryan White
Andrew MacDonald – Shayne Gostisbehere
Nick Schultz – Mark Streit
Brandon Manning – Radko Gudas
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Gdiff (5v5) — -38
Gdiff (All) — -45
CF% (5v5) – 51.6
PP% – 15.3
PK% – 80.9
Gdiff (5v5) — +4
Gdiff (All) — -3
CF% (5v5) – 50.2
PP% – 18.6
PK% – 80.4